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The curtains on my eyes spread open. I sat up in bed with my hand on my chest and looked over at Justin sleeping on my right. I lifted my hand and stroked his hair, gazing at his blissful face with familiar eyes of love for him and envy that he could sleep without much to worry about. That night wasn’t my first time seeing the Devil in my sleep, but it was my first time in years that I felt anxious after seeing him. I could still hear the last words spoken before I woke up:
“Some who wish for good still aren’t pure.”
After I decided against getting back to sleep, I took some clothes to the bathroom and decided to start my morning routine early. Once I made it out of the bathroom and towards the stairs, I stopped to look within the threshold to my daughter’s room. I jacketed my hand in a glove-sized flame for a better look at Julie. She seemed to have better sleep than me. More thoughts filled my head. When would we tell her what I am? Would she be scared?
I made my way back toward the stairs with my hand still on fire and the flames diminished just as I descended the stairs. I took a leftover salad out of the fridge and made myself some coffee, fortunate that I became more familiar with the inside of my house over the years. I went over to the couch in the living room and ate my salad slowly and took small sips of my coffee.
Some time had passed and I saw Justin climb down the stairs with Julie in his arms. He and I made eye contact for a bit and he put her down before walking toward me. Apart from the facts that I was up earlier than everyone else and Lucifer’s comment was still infecting my brain, the morning was pretty normal: Julie used her stepping tool to get herself some cereal, I occasionally reheated my coffee with the flame from my hand while she doesn’t notice, I told Justin to be careful at the police station, he kissed me on the forehead, and he left to bring Julie to school on the way to work while I headed to work at the library.
Around midday, I felt it would be a good idea to splash my face with water in the bathroom while on my lunch break so that I would keep awake. I let my colleague, Brad, know about this and he allowed it. A while into splashing my face, I looked in the mirror and was face to face with a doppelganger half in a shadow, a companion that grew alongside me. Suddenly, I noticed that the darkness that blanketed half of my reflection swallowed the other half as well and switched my eyes from blue to red. As I look into the red eyes of the dark replica, I could see all the times I felt anger to be appropriate, yet caged it with many methods so I wouldn’t become what the angels expected of me.
“Did you honestly think that weight-lifting and poetry would get rid of me? A child can still grow no matter the teratogens, Bronwen!” I heard in a voice that sounded like I was growling.
I felt the memories of cramming down anger slammed into the walls of my head. The most I could remember from while I was still at the library included my attention turned away from breathing, Brad recommending that I end my shift early for the day, and shouting profanities while stealing a pack of cigarettes from a teenager outside of the building. I took some deep breaths and a tear fell out of my eye and onto the sidewalk, which caused me to look around to make sure no one saw the flower that grew where it dropped. While I was out, I felt it would be a good idea to take a cab and pick up Julie from school early. Sculpting a smile on my face seemed less complex than explaining.
That evening, after I put Julie to bed, Justin was still out for work, so I thought it would be a good idea to get some more fresh air. I walked to the backyard and climbed to a tree branch. Though I’d normally be grateful for the leaves blocking my view of the sky, glares from the angels seemed like a fitting action. I retrieved the cigarette box from my pocket and pulled one out, not caring at that point.
As I was smoking the cigarette, my insides felt like I swallowed a blizzard. Not too long after, I felt slight movement on the branch I was sitting on, a hand briefly touch my shoulder, and then the box snatched out of my possession. As I turned my head to look at Justin, he gave me an expression that was slowly breaking away my need to be silent. I took a deep breath and the moment I said, “I spoke with my father last night,” the rest of my day’s description didn’t need a lot of detail. I looked toward the ground and noticed Justin reach for my hand.
“Feels like a reminder of why I grew up here,” I expressed.
Justin grabbed my hand and gave it a squeeze.
“You know, maybe that shouldn’t have to be a bad thing.”
I quickly turned my head to face him and my palm faced down, where the opening of his hand was.
“What if I hurt you or Julie?”
“You need to remember, every balloon has to deflate. That doesn’t mean it’s not pleasant.”
He moved his hand from mine and kept me from turning my head. He gently kissed my lips for about ten seconds before I grabbed his hand and floated with him back to the ground. I felt a tear break free from the corner of my eye and I faced downward. The tear lost its final grip and fell to the grass, where a flower took its place. It stayed in place, unlike my head.